Yarnell Hill tragedy explored in magazine article

Popular Mechanics recently published an in-depth article, trying to piece together what happened on that sad day where 19 men lost their lives. While no one will ever know exactly why the crew left their safe zone, this article discusses the possibility that they were trying to save a home.

If this is true, no one but the crew is to blame, since they took a risk that proved fatal. It's been said firefighters get caught up in the moment, getting a little bit braver each time they are exposed to danger and nothing happens. No amount training will change this.

Changing Fire Suppression

It goes without saying that wildfires have had a lot of press lately, especially with the catastrophic loss of so many firefighters last year. Many might be asking "So why are these fires getting so out of hand, and why are they so big compared to 20 years ago?"

The management of fire used to be all about putting them all out. Now that researchers know fire is important, if not essential, for a healthy forest ecosystem, total fire suppression is not a priority. However, backing off of 100-plus years of snuffing them all out is a very dangerous and risky task.  Combining the western drought with the build-up of forest understory plants creates massive blazes that produce higher heat and destroy the seed source for the next generation of trees.

FireScape, a group of scientists and land management personnel, look for answers to managing the unique attributes of Arizona's Sky Islands, including the Santa Rita Mountains.  There is much to be learned about the role of fire and how it affects these pockets of forest amidst the desert, and hopefully managing fire will progress to the point that we don't have to lose everything in order to bring back a healthy forest for future generations to enjoy.